These questions about who is responsible for fixing apartment defects have been answered by Flavia Ger of Ace Body Corporate Management and Tony Johnson, Stratarama.
Table of Contents:
- QUESTION: 5 yrs ago my unit and the neighbouring unit started to leak through the deck into the ceiling of the garage below. The builder did not correctly fix the problem and has now closed down. Where can I go from here?
- QUESTION: A few lot owners have cracks in their apartment walls. Why are the apartments cracking? We want this investigated quickly, but the Strata Manager has suggested we wait until the AGM.
- QUESTION: Are cracks in apartment walls up to me as a lot owner to repair? I don’t mind repainting, but I believe any damage under paintwork should be claimed against building insurance.
Question: 5 yrs ago my unit and the neighbouring unit started to leak through the deck into the ceiling of the garage below. The builder did not correctly fix the problem and has now closed down. Where can I go from here?
I have a 2 story investment unit in Adelaide. It is 1 of 5 units in a strata complex. The unit has an open tiled deck above a double garage. The building is 12 years old.
5 yrs ago my unit and the neighbouring unit started to experience a leak through the deck into the ceiling of our garage below. The builder reluctantly agreed to fix the problem. We were told that he would replace the waterproof membrane and tiles.
Unfortunately, the leaking into the ceiling has returned this winter. A plumber has cut away the leaking sites in the ceiling and found that there is a crack in the foundation of the CFC on which the tiles were laid and water drips through the cracks when it rains.
I have since had an engineer’s report done and this reveals that the CFC does not comply with building standards and when the repairs were made, a waterproofing membrane was simply applied over the first layer of partly cracked tiles and a second layer of tiles was applied above without any expansion joints.
I have since discovered that the builder of my unit has closed even though still listed online.
I am keen to find a permanent solution to this problem. Do you have any recommendations of reliable builders in this field of work in Adelaide?
It appears that I will now have to bear the cost of the replacement myself and I need to get this fixed when we have suitable dry weather, is this correct?
Answer: If the leak is coming from his subsidiary area and it is not common property, then yes unfortunately you will need to repair this yourself.
HPG are insurance repairers here in SA who are familiar with Community Titled Properties and responsibilities. They may even be able to review the Engineers report and see if there is any insurance recourse or if it is simply the Owners responsibility.
In short if the leak is coming from his subsidiary area and it is not common property, then yes unfortunately you will need to repair this yourself. Whether there is any recourse through the Courts against the now defunct company would have to be determined by a Lawyer.
This post appears in Strata News #399.
Question: A few lot owners have cracks in their apartment walls. Why are the apartments cracking? We want this investigated quickly, but the Strata Manager has suggested we wait until the AGM.
There are 90cm pencil wide cracks on the slab concrete outside of my fence, in common area which adjoin my walls and I have requested our body cooperation investigate. I’ve asked for a structural engineer to examine if the foundation is ok and repair the damaged slab as soon as possible, as there are 200cm long cracks on my internal walls and the gyprock ceilings. The unit next to me also has the same problems with cracks in their apartment walls. We would like to know why the apartments are cracking.
The strata manager wants to wait until our next AGM which is another 10 months. I think the problem needs to be addressed quickly so the other owners and I are going to call a meeting.
The strata manager has put down an agenda saying that if the cracks in apartment walls are caused by general movement, I have to pay the structural engineer’s costs and the repair cost of the damaged slab and the foundation.
Is it the lot owner’s responsibility to repair the damaged foundation?
Answer: Before engaging a structural engineer, I would recommend you speak to your strata manager to organise a building inspector to check the cracks in the apartment walls and provide their recommendations.
It is unclear if your corporation is governed by the Strata Titles Act 1988 or Community titles Act 1996.
In a Strata corporation / community strata scheme, the corporation is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the common areas.
In a community scheme, the owner is responsible for the maintenance.
If your corporation is a part of a Strata scheme, then the corporation will be responsible for maintenance (roof, guttering, external walls and foundations) unless there is a specific resolution made regarding work benefitting individual units/ cost limits.
Before engaging a structural engineer, I would recommend you speak to your strata manager to organise a building inspector to check the cracks in the apartment walls and provide their recommendations.
A building inspector will determine whether an engineer’s report is necessary as some cracks in the walls may not signal major structural issues, for example, vertical cracks. These types of wall cracks may only be superficial in nature. Horizontal cracks can signal other structural issues with foundations/ footings etc.
Having a building inspector advise that a problem exists may compel the corporation members / strata manager to act sooner and to engage an engineer.
This report will be at a cost to the strata corporation if the areas being inspected are common property areas.
Once the structural engineer provides the report with the recommendations, further quotes will need to be organised to undertake the repair work.
The Annual General Meeting is the best time to hold discussions on maintenance and other important matters.
If the building inspector recommends major structural work of an engineer to inspect, then an Extraordinary general meeting may be called to discuss this issue (also the costs for obtaining the report etc.). Alternatively, you can work in conjunction with the management committee members to obtain quotes / engineer costings etc. and then call a meeting to talk about the repairs.
This post appears in Strata News #217.
Question: Are cracks in apartment walls up to me as a lot owner to repair? I don’t mind repainting, but I believe any damage under paintwork should be claimed against building insurance.
I live in a block of units in South Australia. Cracks have been appearing in my internal brickwork for a while now, which can only be attributed to external movement.
Our strata managers are telling me that any internal damage is my responsibility, but I believe my responsibility in regards to cracks in apartment walls stops with the paintwork, and any damage under paintwork is building insurance. Can you clarify this for me?
I don’t have a problem repainting but I do not agree that I should fix the cracks in apartment walls. I believe that is a building insurance claim.
Answer: In basic terms your Manager is quite right.
This is an important question which is not merely aesthetic but could require a varying degree of maintenance. I am working on the assumption that your unit is in a strata complex and not a Community Title.
Whilst it would be difficult for me to give a detailed response without knowing the group and the degree of the cracking, in basic terms your Manager is quite right.
External cracking is the responsibility of the Strata Corporation whilst internal cracking to patch and paint is the responsibility of the Unit Owner. The cracking we are referring to, however, in making this statement, assumes that the cracking is minor, perhaps hairline cracks or worse, but still standard cracking which occurs due to basic building movement.
Some areas in South Australia, of course, are more prone to building movement due to reactive soils in the area. In these areas, it is common for some units to form cracks seasonally. Another cause for movement and cracking could be the level of watering undertaken on the common and subsidiary grounds, or tree roots.
If you are referring to large cracks which could be a structural issue or a crack which can be seen both internally and externally, allowing weather elements or sunlight to get into the unit, this could well become a Strata Corporation matter and may require investigation into any underlying cause, such as stormwater problems. This may require assessment by a Plumber or even an Engineer to determine the cause and the actions required to remedy (stormwater replacement or underpinning). These matters would be a Strata collective matter to consider.
It would be well worth discussing with other Owners/ Residents to determine whether or not other units are (or have experienced) cracking and to what extent. Generally, small cracks to paint and plaster internally are considered an owners responsibility but cracks to the bricks work and structural walls would be looked at by the Corporation. This does depend on work carried out by your group in the past, so your Strata Manager would have a better idea on the history of this.
This post appears in Strata News #179.
Have a question or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
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This article is not intended to be personal advice and you should not rely on it as a substitute for any form of advice.
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